Ethical Issues in Population Health: A Global Perspective - MPH 615

Credits: 3 credits

Course Description

This course provides students with a foundational understanding of the ethical issues related to public health as a discipline and to its practice. The course will emphasize the global dimension of these issues along with their national and local repercussions. While students will explore the theoretical issues within the discipline itself (in regards to the ethical framework best fits population health enterprise), there will also be a more in-depth study of concrete cases that will highlight the multiple and global dimensions of health and healthcare. Global public health ethical issues will be explored within the context of the social and systemic factors that affect population health across the globe. Concrete cases that will be explored may include (but will not be limited to): globesity, pandemics and vaccination, disasters and humanitarian aid, conflict of interest in screening and medical guidelines, medical research agenda and global justice, and healthcare professionals’ education and migration.


In public health practices, the priority shifts to improve the collective health of a certain community rather than being the individual patient. This shift leads to a tension between the loyalty of the health system to individual patients and their social responsibility to improving the health of the entire society, regardless of a possible compromise to individual choices. This tension underlies all the possible ethical conflict in the theory of public health and its practice.

Moreover, globalization has changed the human experience, especially in regards to health and health delivery. The change took place on many levels, including, the movement of people and infectious diseases, the global interdependency of far-apart countries and the resulting gradient of power and exploitation, the availability of treatment to certain diseases but with inequitable distribution of necessary means to implement them, and the complexity of the global social determinants of health.

Therefore, in this course, population health ethics will be situated within a global understanding of health; global in two senses: the international and the all-inclusive determinants of health. This understanding implements themes such as: justice, responsibility, and responsiveness, their meanings and limitations in a multi-disciplinary mindset.

The study will start by briefly studying the moral-philosophical tools usually used in ethics discourse. Then we will study a number of concepts to use in ethics discourse of population health. In the final part of the course, we will discuss a number of cases, together and each one in an assigned paper, to practice using these concepts to justify certain population health policies.

Course Objectives

At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Identify the overt and subtle ethical concepts used in arguing the morality of certain public health practices and policies.
  2. Explain the use of certain concepts related to public health ethics at a global level such as: vulnerability, social justice and equality, and human rights.
  3. Apply the knowledge of these concepts in forging coherent argumentation in matters of public health practices and policies.
  4. Highlight, in a case study, the moral arguments used to justify or reject certain intervention.
  5. Choose a topic of interest, evaluate the validity of provided moral arguments around that issue, and suggest national and international policies to address the relevant moral issues.

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To learn more about Creighton University’s online Master of Public Health, call 866.717.6365 or simply request more information.